With scorching temperatures, the current summer weather calls for an escape from the heat. You might be tempted to head to an air-conditioned megaplex and catch the latest explosive blockbuster, but Denver offers unique movie viewing opportunities, whether classic sci-fi, up-and-coming indie films, family favorites or cult classics.

Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., Professor of Film and Media Studies at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, recommends stepping away from the average cinematic experience and visiting one (or all!) of these unconventional venues for your entertainment needs. Bonus: Many of these events are free!

Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., a professor at MSU Denver, speaks to the audience at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., Professor of Film and Media Studies, joins scholars at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for discussions exploring the intersection of science and film. Photo by Alyson McClaran

science fiction film series
You FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd.

Now in its 12th year, the sci-fi film series combines art and science with its screenings of classic sci-fi films. After each screening, Piturro and scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science engaged in discussions on the intersection of science and film, untangling fact and fiction. “This is one of the most beloved series in the history of Denver and film, and we’re back in person,” Piturro said. “We hope you will join us.”

Also presented this year is The Science of Sci-Fi Cinema: Essays on the Art and Principles of Ten Films, a volume of essays inspired by the series and co-written by Piturro and the scientists he worked with was as a decade. The book examines 10 films, distinguishing the possible from the unlikely and purely science fiction.

RELATED: The science behind sci-fi

Showings are on Wednesdays at 7pm through August 3rd and doors open at 6:15pm. Arrive early to grab a drink from the till or buy an autographed book. In addition, students at the MSU Denver Film Club collect nonperishable food for the Roadrunner Food Pantry at all shows.

Movie on the Rocks
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, Morrison

Film on the Rocks is back for a true amphitheater experience with live performances and popular films shown under the stars in an iconic setting. This season’s lineup also includes The Sandlot (Monday), The Greatest Showman (July 25), Summer of Soul (August 1), and Dune (August 15). “Movies in the largest open-air venue in the world?” said Piturro. “Enough said – get out there!” Doors open at 6:30pm, pre-show entertainment starts at 7pm and films start at 8:30pm

You FilmCenter
2510 E. Colfax Ave.

An integral part of Denver’s independent film scene, the Sie FilmCenter co-hosts the sci-fi film series and produces Film on the Rocks (see above) as well as several additional local film events throughout the summer including Summer Scream at Lakeside, Sunset Cinema, the CinemaQ Movie Fest and more. It also shows new release films and art house retrospectives at the Colfax location. Visit the website for more information on upcoming events and screenings.

The audience watches '2001: A Space Odyssey' during the sci-fi film series at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on July 6, 2022
“Local indie theaters are happier than anyone else to be back open,” said Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., “and they’re exploding with amazing programming to get people out the door.” Photo by Alyson McClaran

Neighborhood Movies in the Park

Every summer, suburbs and boroughs of Denver host free movie nights at local parks. See family-friendly films in Thornton, Aurora, Westminster, Glendale, Englewood and more this year. “We know how to enjoy the great outdoors in Colorado, and we’re fortunate to have these neighborhood events,” Piturro said. “It’s a dream for me: going to the cinema and being outside. And kids have a place to run around.” Check your city or neighborhood website for an event near you.

88 drive-in cinema
8780 Rosemary Street, Henderson

The 88 Drive-in Theater, the last remaining original drive-in theater on Metro Denver, has been serving the community since 1972. “It kind of brings you back to being a kid when you’re, um, a certain age,” Piturro said. “Back, open the trunk, bring the blankets and pillows, and see a double feature — even the concessions are a throwback!” Admission is $10 per person whether staying for any or all features, and children under 12 years have free entry.

Backcountry Outdoor Film Series
Backcountry Base Camp, 6005 Ron King Trail, Littleton

Pack a chair and a picnic and catch movies under the night sky at this open-air theater. “These specials are becoming increasingly popular in Colorado,” Piturro said. “The classics have appeal, and pairing them with great causes is a wonderful idea.” Films are shown every Friday night through September 2nd. General admission is $25 per car (the theater is a short walk from the parking lot), and all proceeds benefit the Backcountry Conservation and Education Fund.

TIED TOGETHER: Denver After Dark: Full Moon Walks

Landmark Theater
Maya Theater, 110 Broadway
Esquire Theatre, 590 N Downing St.
Chez Artiste Theater, 4150 E. Amherst Ave.

Catch an independent film, celebrate Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday with the Retro Replay series, or dress up for a monthly Saturday night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show—The Landmark Theaters have it all. “Local indie cinemas are happier than anyone else to have reopened and they’re exploding with fantastic programming to get people in the doors,” Piturro said. “Please support these wonderful theaters as they get back to work.”

Historic Elitch Theater Outdoor Summer Film Series
4550 W. 38th Ave.

The 130-year-old Historic Elitch Theater, Denver’s oldest cultural venue, is hosting an outdoor summer film series through August 19. Prepare to arrive early at the original site of Elitch Gardens amusement park, and bring chairs and blankets. Admission is free (donations welcome). Pre-show entertainment starts at 7pm and movies start at dusk. Food and concessions are available, with all proceeds benefiting the theater.

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